Weather Around The World: A Lot Going On

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Swells from tropical cyclone Gillian are hampering the search for MH370. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Swells from tropical cyclone Gillian are hampering the search for MH370. Image courtesy of NOAA.

There are so many things happening weather-wise, its hard to know which part of the world to visit first.

Weather In The South Indian Ocean

The missing airplane is still out there – and the search for MH307 is now concentrated in one of the most remote and inhospitable places on Earth outside of the Arctic and Antarctic Circles: the South Indian Ocean.

The latitude is around 40 degrees, and they call that latitude band the roaring 40s. With good reason.

Fall in the South Indian Ocean can have some quiet periods — shades of summer. But most of the time, storms move from west to east at intervals of about three days.

To a northern hemispherian the storms appear to spin the wrong direction, but other than the fact that they are mirror images, low pressure systems in the northern and southern hemispheres are identical.

On the open ocean, winds are higher than on land, and waves in this part of the world are rarely less than three feet high. It is night there now, following a day on which the search for MH370 was halted due to high seas and low visibility. Did I mention that fog is a frequent condition?

To make matters worse, there is a tropical cyclone (named Gillian) to the north of the search area, so that when conditions allow for the search to resume, high swells will restrict any visual sighting of wreckage.

Mudslides In The American Northwest

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Excessive rains in Washington state resulted in deadly mudslides. Image courtesy of NOAA

The record March rainfall in Seattle is 8.4 inches; this March’s total stands at 7.7 and counting. The excessive rain has caused mudslides in Washington state, with several fatalities. The outlook is for continued stormy weather, and Seattle is almost certain to break its rainfall record for March.

‘Spring’ Tides Next Week

Winter Storm Xenia will cause some flooding in Massachusetts, but it could have been much worse. The storm will hit at a time of relatively normal high tides. If the storm had waited a week, the tides would have been a foot or more higher because of the moon’s phase.

The sun and moon combine to pull on the ocean and produce the tides. When they pull together at full and new moon, the tides are exceptionally high. There is a new moon on March 30, and the highest tides on the Massachusetts coast are the following two days. These exceptionally high tides are called ‘spring’ tides, but the name has nothing to do with the season. ‘Spring’ in this sense means to jump up.

In between the full and new moons, at the quarter moons, the sun and moon pull at right angles to each other, and tides are lower than average: These are called neap tides.

Winter Storm Xenia

Winter Storm Xenia wil be a very powerful low pressure center off the Massachusetts coast early Wednesday. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.

Winter Storm Xenia wil be a very powerful low pressure center off the Massachusetts coast early Wednesday. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.

As Decoded Science predicted on Friday, Winter Strom Xenia is zeroing in on Cape Cod and Down East Maine.

Blizzard conditions will occur in both regions. Winds could approach hurricane force and heavy snow will fall — perhaps over a foot on the Outer Cape.

Boston will feel just a glancing blow, with a few inches of snow and wind gusts to 50 miles per hour.

Hurricane Season Is Approaching

Hurricane season doesn’t begin until June 1, but The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project, headed by Dr. William Gray, will issue its initial 2014 forecast on April 7.

Until two years ago, Dr. Gray began with a forecast in December, but that has been discontinued as it had no predictive value. The April forecast should also be viewed with caution: Last year’s early forecast was completely wrong.

As of now, there are conflicting signals from the environment about the coming hurricane season: warm water temperatures in the Atlantic would generally indicate an active season; but a developing El Nino would be expected to reduce activity. The most hopeful forecast is for everybody to be prepared.

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